xtracycle

you wanna fly / don’t want your feet on the ground

xtracycle

I get a rush when I bike long distances and today was no exception (I’m already used to the seat, by the way). I had a full day including picking up a refurbished New Home sewing machine (squee!), then later a wonderful coffee date with my sister, just the two of us. Afterwards she took me next door to the bike shop and bought my new head and tail lights, in addition to a very generous gift certificate for the family. What a wonderful gift for us and a real blessing.

But the highlight of my day sticking to me now was about ten PM when my friend D. who’s tended towards shyness in the past agreed to ride on the back of my bike there in west Aberdeen, and we did a few loops in the summer street while people laughed a bit, circling around a big bonfire while P. played Foreigner’s “Records” out the stereo of his impeccably-shiny Harley.

Or maybe it was an inadvertant poem I heard early in the evening: “Pray to be sane / drank a Hurricane”.

Or later as it was cold out, meeting Ralph and Cole for hot coffee and pizza at the Mia.

Either way, things seemed to work out real well all day long.

the Mia

 

LOCAL CYCLIST OUTRUNS FLEET SPRINGBOK

Today I took Ralph’s bike to Aberdeen and back – kinda twice, but not really because the first time was aborted partway through due to technical problems with the bike and I ended up needing to text someone for a ride so I’d make my commitment on time. I was using Ralph’s bike because a friend is borrowing mine to see how well it will work for her and her kidlets, and this is awesome, because one thing I’d love to proselytize regarding and spread around is the love of cargo/kiddo bikes.

Back to my misadventures, I guess I hate fixing things. Or rather, I’d likely adore it if I didn’t have a lot of other things I consider important and many distractions. See it seems making repairs or changes requires the right kind of tools and a need for an open schedule. Like today all I wanted to do was lower the seat (which by the way is this leathery, narrow little Ass-Punisher), and fix the mirror stem. I ran into problems in both cases (and have a badly-bruised knuckle to boot) and it took longer and was a bigger pain than I thought it would be. But at least I got it done and even upgraydded to a lever-release seat clamp that I’m thinking Ralph will find more handy.

Later in the day I finally made it to Aberdeen and back by pedal-power and I’m glad I made it happen. It was a lovely day and, later, evening for a ride – quite a temperature drop in a few hours but a good Washingtonian, I was prepared with layers. The trip home was dark; we’d loaned our bike light to our friend so I was extra careful. About Myrtle and Cherry I perceived a doe and her little baby deer and I felt a little jolt of pleasure at their night forms, no one else out to see. But as I approached the mother sprang away from her fawn and to my distress she ran away from me while the youngling resolutely ran in front of me, their distance from one another increasing rapidly. I decided there was nothing to do but race faster than the baby deer, which worked. And yes I kind of imagined myself a cheetah. This was made all the more fun by listening to Heart at volume 11 in my ears.

It was a lovely lovely night for a ride.

***

Tomorrow is Ralph and my 10th anniversary! And no, we are not doing anything special! I have, like, seven dollars to my name! But I am incredibly grateful to have my partner and our history together. “With some complaints” we’ve been awesome parents and friends (to one another, and to others).

Ten years, holy shit.

songbird

Phoenix & Her New Bike

Phoenix & Her New Bike

Paid final installment, via layaway, through the local bike shop. A grownup bike, very lightweight with Shimano shifters. All kinds of awesome. Terry tells me it will fit her until she’s about 5′ 4″. I’m 5′ 5″ and she’s catching up to me though. I almost cried seeing her on this bike.

She couldn’t wait for us to drive it home and borrowed a helmet from Terry to ride it right that minute, she told Terry she didn’t need a kickstand. I paid right as she left then I hopped in the car and thought I was right behind her (along her route) but never saw her. I got home and she was already in the driveway with a group of neighbor boys surrounding her. My mom told me later in the day, she saw Phoenie’s first ride, along 7th Street, saw her smiling a huge smile and flying.

It hurt a lot to watch her, but I guess it was a good hurt.

Phoenix & Her New Bike

[T]he bicycle will accomplish more for women’s sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged. ~ Author Unknown, from “Demerarest’s Family Magazine”, 1895

the most civilized conveyance known to man

Phoenix has outgrown her bike. Already! At least we have another child who’s grown into it (Already!). I know just the upgraydd I want to acquire for my girl: an uber-lightweight women’s-size Trek with delicious Shimano shifters – immediately available, a few blocks away, in her favorite color even. It should fit her a long while unless she grows taller than I. Heck, this might happen – at only nine years old she’s an inch shy of my shoulder height. The bike isn’t inexpensive (for us), but our local shop accepts layaway (this is how I bought my own cargo bike) and I have a great rapport with the owner.

Now, the kids have been saving up their restaurant money and could afford about 80% of this bike; Nels has already offered to use the funds for that purpose (seriously? How sweet is he?). But I’d like to get her the bike as a gift, a surprise, and from the family fund. To assist in that end I’ve spent $20 on some business cards to distribute locally (the extent of my advertising efforts for Homesewn), and I’m hoping I can generate a little there, scrump from the grocery fund, etc. I’ve also sent one finished item out to a client (who hopefully will find it a good fit) and I’m putting together a few pieces that might find a home, and earn me some bike-funds. One of the best things about what I sew is: these days I won’t sew something I don’t love so it’s never a waste of my time.

I’m thinking about bikes none-too-early, as the weather has drastically improved and as much as I love to walk, we’re taking a few trips on wheels. I am hauling about thirty pounds more of kids on the Xtracycle than I was this time last year, that is when they elect to ride with me (usually they ride their own). They also regularly head off on their own adventures: today coming home at almost-dusk, stand-pedaling on their bikes with dirty shoes and trousers, shouting laughter, and sporting flushed cheeks. Perfect. Ralph and I have just finished a simple dinner (homemade frijoles refritos wrapped with sharp cheddar in soft tortillas and lightly fried; rice, and a carrot slaw) so we take a walk with our daughter through the wild areas sandwiched between the train tracks and the industrial area – shake mills and Latino body shops. Phoenix serves as a great tour guide, casually showing us her “enemy’s” tree house before leading us to her own: way back through blackberry-bush guarded trails, a quite-large platform made with local lumberyard scraps (by who, we do not know). This latter construction I eye with a kind of horrified respect as it seems about twenty feet off the ground and has no railings or anything. “Have you climbed up in that?” I ask my daughter. “Oh yes, many times. We’ve had four of us up there.” I feel an unspecified but exquisite thrill. What an adventure my children live!

Passing back through one of the many loamy and verdant trails we spy a very fresh half-pack of cigarettes, spilled out on the earth and a few of them broken, so recently that even in our damp environs the paper is still pristine-white. This halts my daughter in her tracks. “Ooh – evidence,” she says, and leans down. “But I don’t know of what, yet.”

We pick through the trails and over crushed bleach bottles and Miller High Life cans and deer sign and colonies of horsetail fern. Phoenix holds our hands all the way home, to a house that smells warm with homecooked food and evidences many sleeping cats.

It’s not hard, not far to reach / We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Natural Beauty

This weekend included a cross-country interview (will post soon) as well as the composition of two articles I was rather satisfied with. Also, and more on my mind for healing properties: many sunny walks (one of them rather long, and involving salamander-catching along a slough), a bike ride, a trip out to the bay, and the meeting of, right-proper, new neighbors across the street. The seven, nine, and eleven year old children new to the neighborhood are already adhering quite quickly to my own kids. Today when Ralph and Nels and I came back from our grocery run we found Phoenix with one of our quilts, lying in the neighbor’s yard alongside her new friend L. In the sunshine, my daughter’s strawberry blonde hair shimmered like golden floss and it felt pretty damn good to think when she was ready she’d run in and grab lunch real-quick (chicken noodle soup, milk, and a banana) before running back out again, grass stains on her corduroys.

More touching than just about anything I’ve experienced in a while, my friend Dawn hosted us for lunch on Saturday and cooked for me – fried chicken (and chard, and potatoes). The kids and I brought homemade peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream (practice for Wednesday). All of it the food was delicious – I maintain there is no fried chicken to be found better than someone doing it out of their home, and Dawn did a great job. Besides my mother, I rarely get anyone homecooking for me, and it’s a wonderful treat.

Speaking of the kitchen, I’ve been baking a lot of chocolate cakes – and, just to be clear, I have more than one chocolate cake in my repetoire.Two sour cream Guinness stout cakes are currently cooling in my kitchen; these involved two cups of the beer and lots of good chocolate melted carefully and a cup and a half of sour cream and very very fresh eggs. One cake is for a friend; I borrowed her bundt pan to bake it right in there for her (I shall, of course, remove the cake and apply the chocolate ganache, and clean the pan before returning). Much like I’m so very into making baby buntings as of late, I would pretty much like to make chocolate cakes many times a week for people – and I do think mine are better than what you can get in any restaurant, coffee shop, or bakery ’round here. The price of dairy and chocolate being what it is, I can’t do so nearly as much as I’d like. Funny thing about baking is, I love to bake for other people but I hardly ever eat anything I bake. And another thing, I think the smells that fill my house are almost enjoyable for my family and guests as the food itself.

We are back down to not having a running car, and in fact will need to acquire a tow as Ralph miscalculated and believed he could have a few days’ more starting power in order to deliver it to the garage. Fingers crossed we can convince the garage to allow us to finance the repairs (tires and brakes plus, I suspect, betcha anything, glow plugs), because it’s pretty depressing to have two rotting cars laying fallow in the driveway.

But. I can’t do anything about any of that, really. So why worry?

Kids

Flats

Watermark

As I type, Nels runs out from the bath with a towel wrapped haphazardly around his wiggling, clean little body. “Freshly-baked buns, just for you,” he tells me, a joke he made up himself and repeats now and then because he knows how much I like it. I’m going to read to the children again tonight, the mines of Moria from The Fellowship of the Ring. Last time I read to Nels I was on the kidnapping of Frodo by a barrow-wight; my son’s eyes held huge and his mien quite serious as he listened to the resolution of that spooky chapter.

There are some things money can’t buy, and those are some of the best things. Good health, sunshine, an appreciation for the natural world. The love of other human beings and the love for them as well.

gollum, gollum

Today:

Play

The kids, playing together. They got wise to me taking pictures and giggled and ran off, thinking I was going to grab at their little toes. I would never!

Fabric in the mail, spoils of my testing work! The contents of one of two packages:

FAVRIC
From mid-left (green sliver) clockwise: leaf green cotton mini-corduroy, woven Irish linen mini-houndstooth, Very Wang wool rayon (so. soft), Hooty Hoot flannel (Hooty Jacks), Retro Rocket Scientist flannel (green on black), cotton canvas fabric (chocolate brown), cotton canvas fabric (deep amethyst), linen/cotton (dark grey), linen/cotton (melon).

Then off to downtown Hoquiam in the (cold!) sunshine. We took Ralph’s bike to the bike shop as his chain was seizing – and stopped at the River Landing too.

Little Guy On The Hoquiam River

Terry (Bike Shop Guy) measured  the chain and oiled it and put air in the tires and wouldn’t let me pay him anything, then opened the door for me in a very chivalrous manner. When I got home I even hex-keyed Ralph’s bike seat back to the (improbably high) position he uses. Partly because this was nice to do for Ralph, partly as a passive-aggerssive hint because when he uses my bike he always neglects to do the same (I love [ /sarcasm ] getting on my bike after he uses it just to get high-crotched in a most alarming and painful fashion!).

It gets so dark so early and we “sleep in” – so the Hogabooms aren’t getting as much daylight as we need. However the beautiful fall weather, although cold (for me), is lovely to venture out in.

Guilty

of a rainy afternoon & (a brief trip to) the Outer Darkness

“wailing and gnashing of teeth”, Biblical reference (Matthew 13:42)

or, the bike ride across town to get a hot lunch at the diner. The kids were shocked at the cold and wet. Nels, behind me on the Xtracycle and thus shielded from the elements somewhat, fared better than his sister. I’d bundled her up as best I could (having the foresight to know how cold the ride would be) but she cried real tears at the cold blasting her hands, and her fleece wasn’t quite up to protecting her from the wind. At her cries it was an effort to keep pangs of guilt at bay. After all, I make quite the effort to clothe them every year against the elements – which are decidedly wet, morphing our not-so-cold to an actually-cold – and every year they get bigger and even when I have the prescient smarts to make something big enough for next season sometimes accidents happen like in the case of Phoenix’s wool coat, lost or stolen – oh and also of course my mind was churning over the fact Phoenix’s bike is already too small for her and I wish I could finagle a new one for Christmas. Nels at least is set clothing-wise; my sewing and knitting have him bundled up in all kinds of wool (although, come to think of it, the hat I made him a little under a year ago is already en-smallening). So I’m good for a few minutes where my son is concerned; until he grows another five inches in twelve months, like he did last year.

Once we got inside and ordered – cheered that even in the depressed-economy in our little downtown there were several other patrons in the eatery – I told the kids this was the time of year, it would be wet and cold, and I could find or make them suitable clothes (latest acquisition: scrumping the purchase of rainboots from my mom; predictably, she went a bit overboard and the boots are rather resented by Nels who clomped in them so loudly at the library) but that we’d be outside a bit since we only had the one car and Daddy had to have it lots of days. They were entirely sober and nodded total acceptance of this. I chided them a bit for the complaints on the bike ride and I told them I needed their help in figuring out what they needed for the upcoming cold.

Phoenix took a napkin and drew a new coat I could make her:

Sketching

A black and white trenchcoat, double-breasted, waterproof with interlining. Assymetrically colorblocked sleeves and a contrast front placket. She designed it in about thirty seconds and I already know what pattern I own I can use, and I already know it’s going to rock.

Phoenix Quickly Designs Her Winter Coat

Nels asked Phoenix to order for him. They split a grilled cheese sandwich and a hot fudge cherry shake. They were very pleased with the whole business. And of course like always they like fixing up my coffee. I generally take it black but I can’t really resist how much they enjoy doctoring it for me.

Cream In My Coffee

As we ate the rain picked up. “It’s going to suck riding back home,” Nels said – but he said it cheerfully. We ended up diving into the library (a scant block away) and waited out the worst of the weather. When it seemed clement enough to go home we went for it. A few minutes later and only a little bit wet we were stomping inside the warm house and carefully storing the foil-wrapped remainders of grilled cheese for later snacking.

What lovely, lovely people to spend the day with.

Lurve

some representations of things that are more or less real

This is Ralph and I (and way in the background, the kidlets) one year ago.

***

Mama
This is me looking happy. I’m happy because I was contacted to sew a few things for someone. I hope it works out. I seriously am already thinking over the projects in my mind. I also ordered fabric and I got wonderful stuff for good prices and at this moment I am happily ruminating on this soft goodness. I’m also about to go on a sunny walk with my son. This latter makes me incredibly happy.

On the walk I enjoyed hearing the very loud AC/DC blaring down the street. I was the beneficiary for several blocks. I was indeed “shook all night long”. And yet I am not sure how this rocker’s next-door neighbors felt about the music selection coupled with the volume.

We stopped at my mom’s and interrupted her work (canning peaches) for a lunch date. It was lovely talking with her and Nels was a little angel in Los Arcos, his favorite repast being the bean dip and their fresh chips. He gave her a sweet hug and a kiss when we parted ways. They love one another quite deeply.

Bike Ride
This is Phoenix looking upset because Ralph got the wrong date for her soccer practice (so we’re biking back home); this is Ralph feeling a bit bad about this but mostly wanting to help his daughter feel better. Look at their twin-frowns.

Fried Rice But Artsy
This is fried rice, tonight’s dinner. I couldn’t get a good picture. It is delicious. It is also fun because you can make up all the fresh and fabulous ingredients ahead of time and then whip the whole thing together in only twenty minutes and everyone is soooooo hungry and loves it. I’ve been listening to the family compliment the meal all night, especially Nels. I heard him speaking in wonderment at how Mama can make such good food. He and Phoenix and the neighbor boy are out in a tent in the front yard (supposedly staying all night) and he keeps running inside (impersonating a “zombie walk” of course) to grab more bites.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

ThistlesOur day today included much bike riding and a marathon swim date at the HQX YMCA. To my surprise the same lifeguards have been totally transformed from their demeanors during the school year. Rather than a handful of rigorous, goofy, and flighty pseudo-rules a more relaxed atmosphere of sensible regulations prevailed. It was wonderful. At first I was confused; then I realized that with summer and more children in the pool (I counted two dozen) there was not the petty energy to piss-about with “don’t touch the ladder” or “don’t lean on that”. Groups of children played freely, teenage boys doing improbably lopsy flips from the diving board and helping one another out (young men who show tenderness and comradery make my eyes sting with tears*), small tots being cared for by older kids, children exercising the fastest-possible technical “walk” on the pool deck (“WALK!”) – their legs stiff and elbows flying, and Nels and Phoenix delighting in having more child-company.

For a brief moment I considered a world where children were not institutionalized most of the year; where more children were more places I went during the day. It was a lovely vision.

I’ve written a bit about watching my son’s inspiring (to me) journey in swimming self-teaching. Today he is determined to learn to dive in the deep end. He first crouches low and hops into the water; then he bends his knees less before the jump, and so on. Over and over he tries different approaches until finally he jumps from a standing position. I’m thinking how much he will love our time at Mason Lake later this month. I tread water close by as Phoenix dives over and over and the two swim around one another like twin seals, all laughter and slippery camaraderie.

My son is such that it is entirely obvious how any amount of pressure or “teaching” agenda usually backfires and impedes his process. Yet helping when he asks and being there to facilitate safety (because truly he is enough of a swim risk-taker I’m glad he’s learning with me close by, here in the 8′ end) I have the honor of watching a flower bloom. His body is a delight, wiggling happily, not one second is he unsmiling. After watching his exertions for a time I am glad he will be sitting on the back of my bike rather than riding his own; he’s still little enough the round-trip and swim efforts would likely tax his little Self more than he’d be comfortable.

My daughter is an amazing mentor to her brother. I notice she offers advice to Nels on his backstroke: “Keep your back straight – put your tummy up,” she tells him firmly. He gladly complies and laughs in delight at the immediate improvement in his stroke. He then flips over and goes under water, emerging with his long hair across his eyes, just his perfect little nose and his big smile visible. Phoenix says, from a distance of a foot, “Do you need help?” Not at all bossy, entirely considerate. He energetically wiggles in his idiosyncratic dog-paddle to the edge under her friendly eye; she watches to make sure he is fine alone.

Typically after physical exertions the kids come home and want more sedate fare.  Nels plays with an electronics kit with the neighbor boy. Phoenix reads. Thanks to our Tweep Justin our daughter has a rather impressive small library of various sci-fi and fantasy novels she’s reading (now as I type she has her nose in The War of the Lance**). Later, the kids are excitedly talking about the creatures they want to pretend to be for the evening: a female centaur (Phoenix), a river-nymph (Nels).

Then Ralph asks them, “Should mama be a harpy or a sea serpent?”

(Asshole!)

Staircase wit: I should have shot back with, “Should daddy be a tiny-dicked orc, or a tiny-dicked ent?”

But I don’t always have a quick reply.

Nels Walks To The Store(Nels walks to the corner store.)

NERD!

** NERD!

mealtime manners

Late evenings we’ve been watching Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on Netflix Instant. I’m probably the last person, ever, to discover this show but if you don’t know it, I can vouch that it’s fabulous. It’s a simple enough premise: a television personality going around the country (and occasionally abroad) performing one day of the kind of work most people don’t know about and won’t be clamoring to try after they see it. The show is interesting, it’s funny, and I love that it shows the underpinnings of our society (another great reason to watch with kids) – and okay okay, my husband is right, I have a teensy crush on the host, probably mostly because I like to watch guys work and get all messed up (and yeah, Ralph… network server stuff isn’t quite dirty enough).

So last night we were watching the episode Alligator Egg Collector – rather self-explanatory, really. As we watched Rowe push apart a nest to retrieve the leathery treasure therein my daughter commented, “That nest is farther from the water – those are probably mostly male eggs.” I sat there in stunned silence with my second glass of wine in hand. My kids are always telling me things I didn’t know previous and I can tell exactly by their tone of voice when they’re telling me a fact. I usually kind of shrink a bit and feel my Limitations and timidly ask them in what way now they’ve now advanced beyond me (I don’t use those exact words of course).  So I ask my daughter now, “What? What do you mean?” Patiently, she explains that the temperature of alligator nests determine the sex of the babies – if the nest temperature is under 85 F the clutch will be all-female and if over 93 F the eggs will be male. “Nests farther away from the water are warmer, so all the babies are male.” she says calmly. I ask her to get me the book where she learned this and she obliges, sliding out of bed and padding into the living room to retrieve it, flipping the encyclopedia open and pointing. Her eyes are predator-stripes, her body sleek and alive and All Is Right in the world.

Today the kids slept until almost 1 PM at which point they called me in the bedroom to play a trivia game; answers I got right required a kiss to Nels, answers I got wrong I was forced to kiss my daughter. We all liked this game Times One Hundred.

The children’s sleeping-in gave me plenty of time to cook, clean, and sew a bit before they rose and we went on our bike errands.  I’m on Day 3 of arranging a large tray of comestibles for the kids. They love this and so do I. They are flush with compliments for my food and my general personhood; they sample nearly everything that’s put out, lazily thumbing through a book and cracking open edamame shells, stacking fruit on small plates, pouring tea.  Between the four of us the tray’s fare is devoured with maybe one slice of peach going out to the chickens by day’s end. We are definitely eating more of a variety of foods, especially simple fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tonight dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, the sauce of which was started yesterday and simmered down to the Most Delicious Thing Ever. Ralph made the meatballs, a bit larger than usual, dropping them in the simmering sauce while I stitched away in the sewing room.  We sat down at 7:30, a kale and carrot salad from our local CSA rounded out the meal along with the few snap peas (also from the CSA) from today’s tray. Dining as a foursome, I’m eating and I can’t believe how good the food is. I ask my husband, “Is this what my spaghetti always tastes like?” He says Yes. I say, “This is the best spaghetti & meatballs I’ve had in my life.” (I seriously invite any of you all to come weigh in on this). Phoenix immediately pipes up: “I agree!” Nels takes a bite of the salad and says it’s “delicious and sour.” Phoenix kindly tells us lettuce makes her barf. Ralph explains it’s not lettuce it’s kale, and I mention it’s high in calcium (she’s been interested in what foods are good for dental health). Phoenix says, “That’s great, but it still makes me want to barf,” and goes on in an avid description of exactly the kind of gagging that results from trying to eat such a thing. Ralph gently asks her if she wouldn’t mind not talking about puke at the table. I’m trying not to laugh.  I hated lettuce and greens at her age too; I’m still rather picky about them.

My mother comes over after dinner to pick Nels up; she and the kids have been working on putting together pieces for this year’s Young Artist Showcase at the Harbor Art Guild gallery. While they’re gone Phoenix plays games on the computer and I sew on my current Fabulousness for Nels.

As soon as I’m settled in the sewing room, every time without fail, ALL FOUR CATS dart in. Mable lays at my feet, pornographically delighted to have me touching her; Harris lays on his side for a few minutes before rising and sitting up at the door silently, his handsome nose a dignified arrow, “Let me out, please.” And the two kittens.  They climb my fabric and try to tear things up to shit. Today I chucked a book at Hamilton (not hitting her, just trying to startle) to get her off a noisy activity and she lightning-fast spun towards me, her “arms” up in an alarmed ‘Y” and her mouth popped open with a fishy smack – a comical expression of dismay and surprise. I laughed loudly and she scrambled away, her body – only miliseconds before engaged in aggresive horseplay – crumpled up like a concertina of Shame.